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A Gate at the Stairs – Lorrie Moore

November 5, 2010

I picked this book on one of my recent wanderings through Barnes and Noble. It was a bestseller, it was a New York Times pick, it has received RAVE reviews. It looked very promising, and I was very anxious to read it.

The book tells the story of Tassie, a 20-year-old college student in the Midwest post-9/11. Tassie is a country girl, the daughter of a potato farmer, living in a progressive college town. Tassie needs a job and ends up accepting a position as a nanny for well to do couple on the verge of adopting a mixed race baby. She takes care of the baby, has a relationship with a fellow student, attempts to connect with her family, develop a friendship with her odd roommate, find her voice and her place in the world.

It did not work for me. I don’t feel like Tassie had much depth to her. I constantly felt sad for her, and I could never quite figure her out. She seemed dreary to me. Although she seemed to yearn for depth and knowledge, I don’t feel like she ever achieved that, she never found herself.  Her relationships were awkward, and reading through her conversations with others made me feel uncomfortable. Her relationship with her Brazilian boyfriend, Reynaldo, was odd, as was her eccentric roommate Murph. The whole book seemed a bit disjointed to me. It was a little too wordy, and not enough connections were made. The situation with her brother at the end of the novel bothered me. It did not feel like it was given proper justice by Moore. I felt she was throwing things in to evoke more emotion, to make a statement, but it was too much.

I think this is one of those books that critics love, and everyone else hates. Maybe I’m just not deep enough or intelligent enough to “get it,” even though I’ve been through enough Literature classes that I should “get it,” at least on some level. I’m still scratching my head on this one. I just did not like it.

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